New Green Rooibos:
The ongoing debate, about which teas brew the strongest health benefits, now has a
colourful twist in the tea tale. Recent research conducted by the Agricultural Research
Council (ARC), Infruitec-Nietvoorbij and the Medical Research Council of South Africa, has
revealed that green Rooibos contains more antioxidants than South Africa’s traditional red
Rooibos is processed in two different ways, producing two distinct teas. In the cases of
traditional (red) Rooibos the green leaves and stems are picked, bruised and left to
ferment. The fermentation process turns the leaves and the resulting tea into a rich amber
colour, which led to its African name Rooibos, meaning "red bush."
The new green Rooibos is prepared in much the same way, but it is not fermented. The
unfermented brew contains higher levels of antioxidants than traditional Rooibos, as many
antioxidants are destroyed during the fermentation process. The unfermented variant has a
mild, "green" taste which is reminiscent of green tea but without the astringency.
Red tea (fermented Rooibos) on the other hand has a stronger, sweeter, fruitier taste.
Rooibos has always been a hot topic in the health industry as it is packed with
antioxidants, the lifeline that binds itself to free radicals. Free radicals (unstable
molecules) can damage the DNA in cells, which in turn can cause cancer. They can also
oxidise cholesterol, which leads to the clogging of blood vessels and consequently heart
attacks and strokes. Antioxidants bind to these free radicals before they cause any harm.
Polyphenols are the most prominent antioxidants in Rooibos. The polyphenol group is
divided into subgroups such as the flavonoids. The most prominent flavonoids in Rooibos
include aspalathin, rutin and orientin. Both isoorientin and isoquercitrin are also present.
Aspalathin and nothofagin are two types of polyphenols that are also present in large
amounts in unfermented (green) Rooibos. Studies have shown that these two polyphenols
oxidise into other substances during fermentation, and thus, fermented Rooibos contains less
aspalathin and nothofagin than unfermented green Rooibos.
In conclusion, senior research scientist at the Medical Research Council of SA, Jeanine
Marnewick says, “Rooibos showed protective effects against DNA damage when tested in an in
vitro assay as well as in an in vivo (dissection) animal system.” The in vitro (test tube)
studies found that unfermented Rooibos was generally more protective against DNA damage than
fermented Rooibos, although fermented Rooibos has a stronger effect against other mutagens.
Research on this topic is on going, Marnewick is currently evaluating the protective
effect of Rooibos on liver, esophageal, colon and skin cancer induced in live animal models.
Studies are in their early phases and Marnewick cautions that there is still a little known
about the effect of Rooibos on cancer development.
So until then, sit back, relax and enjoy a healthy, delicious cup of indigenous South
The Green Pharmacy
by James A Duke Ph.D. - Page
Published: Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1997
Rooibos (Aspalathus Linearis).
South African physicians recommend rooibos (pronounced roo-i-bus) tea as
an effective stomach soother that’s gentle enough to treat infant
colic, according to the late economic botanist Julia Morton, D.Sc(Dr.
Morton, author of some of the best books in the field, including The
Atlas of Medicinal Plants of Middle America, was killed in a car
crash in 1996. It is a
great loss for everyone involved in the study of medicinal plants.)
Unfortunately, rooibos is available in only a handful of stores in the
The Green Pharmacy by James A Duke Ph.D. -
Published: Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1997
Rooibos (Aspalathus Linearis).
Although not usually grown in the United States, this shrubby African
legume is available in selected herb stores.
Tea made with this herb is a bedtime favorite among South African
herbalists, consumers and even physicians.
South Africans also use it to improve appetite, calm the
digestive tract and reduce nervous tension.
They regard it as safe enough to give infants.
Digest, The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs by Rebus,
Publisher, Rodney M. Friedman, Executive Editor, Sandra Wilmot, 1999
Rooibos tea, Aspalathus linearis.
The brick-red tea made from this plant has long been a refreshing
beverage in South Africa, and rooibos, or ‘mountain’ tea is a
household name in this country. Its
popularity worldwide has increased recently, partly because of research
into its ‘anti-aging’ properties.
As an antispasmodic for infants prone to colic
Soothes skin irritations like nappy rash, eczema and acne
May improve constipation
May improve liver function
May play a role in improving blood sugar levels
May promote longevity
What it is
The shrub Aspalathus linearis, which grows up to two metres
high, is endemic to the slopes of the Cedarberg mountain range in the
Western Cape. Its Afrikaans
name, rooibos (red bush), comes from the fine needle-like leaves of the
plant, which turn red when they are fermented.
For centuries the indigenous people of the
Clanwilliam region made a tea from the rooibos by first cutting off the
twigs and then bruising the leaves, fermenting them and then drying them
in the sun. Today it is one
of the few local wild resources that has made the transition to a
commercially cultivated crop. The
fermenting process is similar to that used for black or oolong tea.
This unique beverage with its
characteristic sweet flavour is regarded as ‘healthy’ partly because
of its lack of caffeine and its low tannin content.
But rooibos tea is also rich in volatile compounds, minerals and
other active ingredients which give it its favourable medicinal effects.
What it does
Rooibos contains a wealth of flavonoids, which include
aspalathin (found only in rooibos tea), nothofagin, vitexin, isovitexin,
orientin, isoquercitrin, luteolin and quercetin.
Many of its health-promoting properties are linked to the
antioxidant effect of these flavonoids. Recent studies have demonstrated that the antioxidant effect
of rooibos tea is made possible by superoxide dismutase (SOD) mimetic
substances. SOD is one of
the best-known enzymes in the human body capable of neutralizing free
oxygen radicals as soon as they are formed.
Free oxygen radicals cause damage to body proteins and fats, as
well as to our DNA (or hereditary material).
An imbalance in the body’s oxidant levels is believed to be a
contributing factor in a broad spectrum of diseases, including
atherosclerosis, inflammatory disease (for example, arthritis), heart
disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and AIDS.
The antioxidant effect of rooibos tea is
thought to be similar to that of green tea, although current research
has shown it to be less than that of green tea. However, the mechanisms by which rooibos produces its health
giving benefits are still unclear because of a lack of detailed human
Major Benefits: Rooibos tea is said
to have had an effect on dermatological diseases such as Behcet’s
disease, Sweet disease and photosensitive dermatitis. It is also said to have antispasmodic effects and is
therefore useful as a drink for infants suffering from colic.
Rooibos tea is rich in several minerals including iron,
calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and sodium, as well as the
trace elements copper, manganese and fluoride.
The mineral content of rooibos tea contributes to the maintenance
of healthy skin, teeth, bones and metabolic processes.
The evidence currently available on the therapeutic value of
drinking rooibos tea gives some credibility to the ‘anti-ageing
claims. Until further
research is made available, however, the expectations of a healthier
life, rather than an increased lifespan, would seem more realistic.
How to take it
You can get the benefits of rooibos tea by drinking several cups of the
brew each day. Topically: To soothe nappy rash, eczema and acne, apply a rooibos cream
or the tea to the affected area as needed.
Make your own rooibos cream by adding two tablespoons of strongly
brewed rooibos tea to twice that amount of aqueous cream or emulsifying
Guidelines for use:
Rooibos tea can be enjoyed at any time, on its own or with meals.
It can be drunk safely at night as it contains no stimulants.
The tea should be freshly brewed.
To prepare it, allow one teabag or heaped teaspoon of loose tea
per cup. Pour boiling water
onto the tea, and keep warm. Infuse
for two to three minutes. Slow
brewing on the stove gives good results too.
Possible side effects
Rooibos tea is very safe, with no reported adverse effects.
Since it contains no oxalic acid it can be drunk safely by people
who suffer from kidney stones.